PODCAST: Cebu’s HIV problem is also a drug problem

Rappler.com
PODCAST: Cebu’s HIV problem is also a drug problem
Did you know that sharing needles and syringes contaminated with blood infected with HIV is the most effective way of transmitting the virus?

MANILA, Philippines – For this week’s Sex and Sensibilities podcast, Rappler columnist Ana P. Santos takes us down to Cebu City to talk with Jerson See, Executive Director of Cebu Plus, a non-governmental organization offering care and support for people living with HIV (PLHIV).  

HIV infections in Cebu are taking a particular route—through the sharing of needles when injecting Nubain, a narcotic pain reliever.

Majority of the reported 28,428 total HIV infections are transmitted through sexual contact. However, data from the HIV/AIDS Registry shows that 74% of the reported 1,000+ HIV infections in Cebu are traced back to the sharing of needles.

Sharing needles and syringes contaminated with blood infected with HIV is the most effective way of transmitting the virus.

In 2009, the number of people who inject drugs (PWID) who are also HIV+ was less than 1%, but this number increased to 53% in 2010. This was also around the time the Dangerous Drugs Act was amended, criminalizing the possession and distribution of drug paraphernalia such as syringes.

Additionally, a local ordinance was passed that prohibited the sale of more than one needle to an individual without a prescription.

As injecting drug users are typically male, HIV infection is now spreading to their female partners—and potentially, their unborn child.

Since the start of the year, the Vicente Sotto Hospital, a treatment hub that offers HIV testing and administers ARV testing, has seen 10 pregnant women test positive for HIV—that’s almost one case per month. Previously, the numbers of pregnant women in Cebu testing positive for HIV was almost zero.

Organizations and public health officials are advocating for a needle exchange program to stop the spread of HIV.

Local government officials are calling for rehabilitation, but public health officials are saying that will take time—time which the city does not have.

“Injecting drugs users have partners. We will have women who are infected with HIV and pretty soon, babies infected with the virus as well,” said See.

Tune in to the podcast to learn more about the injecting drug issue in Cebu and how it is contributing to the increase of new HIV infections. – Rappler.com

HIV/AIDS is a problem in both rural and urban communities across the Philippines. Responding to this issue, Rappler’s MovePH is launching a campaign to promote awareness on the issue. Follow our stories through the hashtags #StayNegatHIVe and #LivePositive.

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